Keurig may caffeinate soup sales

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Of all the features consumers want in a coffee machine, the ability to make soup probably isn't high on the list. So even though coffee and soup are both hot liquids served in a cup, news last week that soup giant Campbell's was joining up with single-cup brewing king Keurig seemed odd.

But given the growing presence of Green Mountain Coffee's Keurig machines in homes, offices, and car dealerships, and rosy forecasts for U.S. soup sales, analysts say this joint effort could be the next hot thing in hot things.

Single-serve coffee sales have grown from 23 percent of all ground coffee sales to 33 percent in the 14-month period ending June 8, according to research from Nielsen. And though Campbell's earnings were $458 million in 2013, down from $774 in 2012, its soup category is performing well, with sales rising 4 percent in the company's fiscal 2013 fourth quarter, compared with the same period the year before.

But soup sales aren't only Mmm Mmm good at Campbell's. Total soup sales in the U.S. amounted to $5.9 billion in the year ending in June 2013, according to Nielsen data, up from $5.7 billion the year before.

Keurig's K-cups -- single-serving plastic containers with coffee filters inside -- have become popular not only in households, but in small offices, locations with waiting rooms such as doctors' offices, and with college students. They've also expanded from coffee to tea and cocoa, and soup may be a logical extension.

Previously the company had partnered with Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts for coffee K-cups. Now, Campbell's can promote its brand similarly, says Joe Pawlak, the vice president of Technomic, a food industry research and consulting firm.

"It makes a lot of sense, as a good way to get some buzz," he said. And buzz about soup can be hard to come by, Todd said. "Soup is not one of the most dynamic categories out there, so when something new happens it garners a lot more attention," he said.